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tv   Hardball With Chris Matthews  MSNBC  March 3, 2014 4:00pm-5:01pm PST

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let us not forget that president obama in the white house or lupita winning an oscar is a result of struggles, not the end of struggles. and whether it's blacks or latinos or gays or women, we must continue to fight until equality is a reality. the fact that we have these moments of victory only means no matter how difficult the struggles continue to be, the victory is certain if we continue the struggle and not stop just at momentary victories. thanks for watching. i'm al sharpton. "hardball" starts right now. the hawks are flying. let's play "hardball." good evening. i'm chris matthews up in new york. let me start tonight with -- can
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you hear the bugles blowing? can you hear the loud bursts of trumpets, the threatening blasts at the president if he dare not rattle the saber at moscow? they are the same buglers who sent our troops dashing off to the disaster in iraq, who wanted us in libya. well, this time the same voices of the crochetty grown of the cold war. wouldn't bit far better if we first got straight what the united states, this country wants to happen? what we clearly don't want, dare i speak for most americans, is a louder, bigger fight between kiev and moscow. we want a much smaller one. and could bit that the best way for that to happen is the bugle boys, already ready to blow charge to cool it. and see if we have any influence in the situation there and then carefully and deliberately assert it. my biggest worry is that we will do no good when our primary,
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goal, especially this moment should be finding a way to do no harm. the ambassador to ukraine and howard fineman is the editorial director of "the huffington post" and msnbc political analyst. anyway, the state department today said it's preparing sanctions against russia if it continues its actions in ukraine. and president obama warned that russia was on the wrong side of history. let's listen to the president. >> my interest is seeing the ukrainian people be able to determine their own destiny. russia has strong historic ties to the ukraine. there are a lot of russian nationals inside of ukraine. as well as native russians. all of those interests i think can be recognized. but what cannot be done is for russia with impunity to put its storages ground and to violate basic principles that are recognized around the world.
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>> ambassador taylor, when you look at this situation do, you sense that the new government in kiev, the new ukrainian government, which took over just recently, do they understand the world they live in? are they smart about their politics and the way they've been behaving with regard to the russians? >> actually, chris, i think they are smart. the president is a very cool character. he has been around for some time. he was doing work in this business when i was there. he was the head of the intelligence services when i was there. just before. so he understands the russians very well. the prime minister, yatsenyuk is another person who was there when i was there. he is very smart. he has played a lot of different roles in the ukrainian government. and he understands the russians very well. and he comes from crimea. he spent some time in crimea as well. now, what they do is important, and they do need to reach out to the russians in the eastern part of ukraine. >> why did they go about banning
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russian as a second official language? i know it was vetoed later. but for several days there, the word went out to the russian people and the russian speaking people in ukraine, especially down in the southeastern part that they weren't really welcome as part of the governing community, if they will. why tell some people that their language isn't to be respected? why would they do that? >> it was a mistake. i think they recognized the mistake. >> what do you mean a mistake? was it the wrong thing to do political any live? they didn't do it accidentally. why did they do it? >> it was the wrong thing to do politically, absolutely. the reason they did it, in answer to your question, that the passions ran high on the midan, on independence square. people on independence square had lost 88 of their fathers and brothers and sons. and they were really, really angry at president yanukovych. and one of the things president yanukovych did early on that made russian, a, one of the official languages. and the passions on the midan
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g glommed on to that as the first thing to do. it was a mistake and they recognized it. >> language can be a fighting word. not surprisingly, the latest news out of ukraine led the hawks to ramping up their get tough on russia rhetoric this weekend. they all seem to agree on one thing. president obama is to blame for what is going on over there. here was the editorial in "the wall street journal" today. quote, in the brutal world of global power politics, ukraine is particularly a casualty of mr. obama's failure to enforce his red line on syria. when the leader of the world's only super power issues a ultimatum and blinks, the world notices. the world is full of revisionist powers and bad actors looking to exploit the opening by mr. obama's retreat from global leadership. and mr. putin is the leading edge of what could quickly become a new world disorder. meanwhile, here were some of the more usual suspects at home. let's watch. >> i think putin is playing
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chess, and i think we're playing marbles. and i don't think it's even close. so if you look at the nuclear negotiations, we got our fannies handed to us. >> this is a blatant act on the part of vladimir putin and one that must be unacceptable to the world community. why do we care? because this is the ultimate result of a feckless foreign policy where nobody believes in america's strength anymore. the president of the united states believes that the cold war is over. that's fine. it is over. but putin doesn't believe it's over. >> well, number one, stop going on television and trying to threaten thugs and dictators. it is not your strong suit. every time the president goes on national television and threatens putin or anyone like putin, everybody's eyes roll, including mine. we have a weak and indecisive president that invites aggression. >> putin decides what he wants to do, and he does it in half a day. he makes a decision and he executes it. quickly.
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then everybody reacts. that's what you call a leader. president obama, you got to think about it. he has to go over it again. he has to talk to more people about it. >> boy, that's a strange comment by rudy there. your comments. shoot first, ask questions later from rudy giuliani. your thoughts. >> that's not what you call a leader. that's what you call a dictator. and that's what vladimir putin is. barack obama is president of the united states. it's a slightly different matter, number one. number two, in the case of john mccain, he has the winston churchill maxim totally backwards. winston churchill always said jaw jaw is better than war. i don't know how much credibility he has on this kind of thing. as for the president and his advisers, i talked to a number of them this afternoon. he said that john kerry, the secretary of state, and the president himself are making it clear that our interests in the
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region are for the freedom of the ukrainian people. their right to self-determination. for the rights of russians, by the way, and russian speakers in the region dealt with peacefully. and for respect for international law. those are things that they plan to pursue. i also think that they know that the right thing to do here is that probably not get into a swearing match or proto military confrontation with vladimir putin. you don't corner the animal. and that's sort of the situation we're in here right now. and they're trying to be cool and to ratchet down the rhetoric because they think that putin has overplayed his hand, and that they think they've got a way to get back, get back at him. the problem that the president has is that the europeans don't do what the united states wants anymore. and putin supplies most of the gas to western europe. and that's a problem. >> well, senators mccain,
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graham, and rubio have said sanctions against russia wouldn't be enough saying reintroducing plans to build missile defense sites in poland and admitting georgia to the nato alliance. thing is wacky. let's watch it. >> very much cares about testimonisy on his borders. i would like to create a democratic noose around putin's russia. poland and the czech republic. we abandoned our missile defense agreements with them to protect europe from a rogue missile attack coming out of the mideast. russia backed obama down. if i were president obama, i would reengage poland and the czech republic regarding missile defense. i would admit georgia to nato. i would have a larger military presence in the balkans to nato members who are threatened by russia. i would fly the nato flag as strongly as i could around
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putin. >> normally that would be harmless. that's just lindsey graham channeling cooley from advise and consent, the only southern rascal anti-communist. but the danger here, it seems to me what we should be trying to do is get the genie back in the bottle over there. get russia to limit its invasion to crimea. slowly withdraw it over time. the fact that they've shown a little bit of hedge there by not putting uniformed people in there tells me something. don't include or go for a larger grasp on ukraine. and for ukraine to recognize that yes, they can join the west, but they can't abandon their geography. they have to some kind of economic with russia, whatever the russians want them to be in, and they're not mutually exclusive. can the ukraine find the finesse to join the west positively without sticking a thumb in the eye of putin? is it doable? >> it is doable. it is doable. but the ukrainians, of course, have to make the decision to do that. and they've -- they're making the decision that they want to go into the european union.
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they want to sign the association agreement. they want to deep and comprehensive free trade agreement with the europeans because they can see that financially and economically, that's the future. >> yep. >> it is not the future to go with the belarusians and the kazakhs. >> is that an exclusive opportunity? do they have to go all the way with -- i mean, this idea of bringing nato as a noose around the neck of putin looks to me rather provocative. >> yeah. they don't have to be provocative. indeed, as you say, they're neighbors. it's a big country. ukraine is a big country. russia is a bigger country. they need to get along, and they can get along there is probably a way in free trade to be able to have it both ways. have trade through the russians and trade to the europeans. that's not mutually exclusive. it may be mutually exclusive to be in this you'eurasian union.
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i said this on "meet the press" a week ago, eight days ago, i noticed a lot of people in the new government in kiev were walking around the palace and the presidency over there wearing ski masks. they weren't confident at all they weren't being provocative to moscow. and secondly, i noticed the russians didn't wear uniforms when they came. in both sides seem to be aware that this is going to go on for a while and they're hedging their bets a bit. it's fascinating. the insiders seem to know this thing is not going to be over for a while. >> that's right. and that's why the impression i got from talking to people inside the administration is that they want to be quite careful in both their public and private utterances to see what they can do to walk it back. they don't think there is any benefit in doing their own saber rattling at this point. and also, to follow the dictum that you don't want to threaten when you can't follow through. >> exactly. >> which is one of the criticisms of obama. is lindsey graham really serious
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about having nato -- georgia in nato? maybe u.s. georgia, but not that georgia, okay. because all lindsey graham needs to do is look at a map. how would we ever enforce a mutual defense pact with georgia? is he kidding? that's the kind of empty threat that is the real kind that makes putin not take us seriously, not what the president has said. >> it sounds more like charles lawton playing the character, the old southern senator during the cold war. you got to get touch with these people. thank you, ambassador william taylor. it's great to have your expertise. thanks for your service to the country. howard, your wisdom was great. paul ryan has decided that's what is wrong with america is not income inequality, as the president says, it's the poor. they're the problem. so he is in effect declaring war on the poor when talking about reforming food stamps, welfare, head start, medicaid. he is going where the money is,
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he thinks. the more democrats win over democrats and minorities, the more they lose white men. now some democrats are talking about climbing the steepest political mountain on the wall, winning back the white guys who deserted the party, especially down south. but not just down south. the political scandal that rocked the early 1980s, it started the late '70s was the basis for the movie "american hustle." some of this actually happened. we're going inside on the terrible corruption in philly and south jersey, which was exposed in abscam. finally, let me finish with the deep concern have i about this possibility of trouble for us in ukraine. i say do no harm, especially to us. this is "hardball," the place for politics. at lifelock doing our thing: watching out for your identity, data breach or not. get lifelock protection and live life free.
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of all the states president obama won in 2012 and 2008, the most surprising may well be virginia. the state hadn't voted for democrat for president since lbj back in '64. but new polling shows it may
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stay blue for a while. let's check the "hardball" scoreboard. according to polling from christopher newport university, hillary clinton would beat chris christie in virginia by two points, 43-41. a close race there, but no other republican does nearly as well. against rand paul, clinton would win by 7, 47-40. marco rubio trails by 8. ted cruz trails her by 10, 47-37. wisconsin governor scott walker down by 11, 46-35. against jeb bush, would lead him by 13. so much for jeb getting in, 51-38. paul ryan trails clinton by 15. and the same for mike huckabee. and we'll be right back. there's this kid.
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coach calls her a team player. she's kind of special. she makes the whole team better. he's the kind of player that puts the puck, horsehide, bullet. right where it needs to be. coach calls it logistics. he's a great passer. dependable. a winning team has to have one. somebody you can count on. somebody like my dad. this is my dad. somebody like my mom. my grandfather. i'm very pround of him. her. them.
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welcome back to "hardball." in just the last year, we've seen how far the right wing will go to wage war on the poor, whether it's cutting food stamps, rejecting free medicaid money, slashing unemployment insurance benefits or simply
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stonewalling a minimum wage hike. for some of the right, attacking the poor has become a reflex. it's hardly surprised when the party unveils its budget later this month, it will likely touch all the far right's erogenous zones when it comes to the poor. today the chair polled by paul ryan unveiled a 200-page report blasting federal programs aimed to help the poor. part of their conclusion is the federal government effectively discourages them, that's poor people of this country, from make mortgage money. and then they throw this into the mix. perhaps the single most determinant of poverty is family structure. well, social conservatives out there should have loved that baby. but in an interview with "the washington post," congressman ryan says that he and the republican party are actually the true champions of the poor, not the president. and not the democrats. here is his logic. quote, there are nearly 100 programs at the federal level that are meant to help, but they have actually created a poverty trap there is no coordination with these programs, and new ones are frequently being added without much consideration to
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how they affect other programs. we've got to fix the problem and this report is the first step towards significant reform. cynthia tucker is a great person to have on. and david corn is an msnbc political analyst and the washington bureau chief for mother jones. i want to hear from both of you and your thinking on this. i'm going the leave it wide open. what do you make of the fact that paul ryan, a budget hawk, is now interested in the poor? and what is of interest to him in these programs, do you think, cynthia? >> what is of interest to him is cutting programs for the poor, chris. you and i both know what this is about. paul ryan has some new lines, some updated rhetoric. but it's the same idea from ronald reagan 40 years ago. the poor, if people are poor, it's their own fault. and any federal government effort to help them only makes it worse. i want to see paul ryan's
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interest in corporate welfare. why doesn't that make corporations worse off? i want to see his interests in farm subsidies. why don't those create a poverty trap for farmers? he doesn't criticize those at all. but poor people he goes right after them. >> well, if conservatives want to help the poor, why not raise the minimum wage? their report, the republicans say they're, quote, focused on upward mobility, speaking directly to people who have fallen through the cracks. according to the white house's breakdown of a recent cbo report, raising the minimum wage up to $10.10 would mean 16.5 million workers would get a raise which would lift 900,000 people out of poverty. david, i want to get to you. and i think what they're getting at is a sense that there are some people who abuse welfare. certainly there are some. and there is a problem people have. a young woman gets pregnant, she gets into the cycle. we've seen these case. but they don't seem to get into clinical detail about how to prevent those cases from occurring, the cyclical dependence on government checks. but they just seem to say we're
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going to attack the family. these guys aren't bill cosby. these guys have no street credit when it comes to the black american situation. does anybody believe they're serious here? >> not yet. i think what paul ryan is trying to do is find some cover. you remember back a couple of decades ago, there were these jack kemp republicans, or mainly just one jack kemp republican that was jack kemp, who try to say hey, there are conservative policies out there in housing and welfare that can really help the poor more than what we have here. and i think actually his heart was in the right place. >> i agree. >> when i look at paul ryan, look at the speech he gave at the republican convention, it was libertarian ideology or theology straight down the line. getting out there, as he says today, that the war on poverty has failed. well, that's just disingenuous. a great study came out of columbia university about a month or two back that said if you use the most sophisticated analysis when it comes to poverty rates, poverty rates
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went down from 26% to 16% because of all these anti-poverty programs of the federal government. and if you look at what has happened since the recession of 2008, certainly unemployment benefits, extending them, greater reliance on food stamps has kept millions of americans from falling into a real poverty trap. so if paul ryan sees redundancies and has ideas for making these systems work better, more effectively, he can put those forward. but interestingly enough, in this 200-page report, not one alternative policy about how to do things better and make things work better for recipients of these programs. >> i want to jump to that back to you. i didn't give you a chance, cynthia. that's my question for you. is there a good way for progressives to make welfare better? >> of course there are. >> what are they? >> of course there is. there are programs that don't work nearly as well as they should. you know, paul ryan talks about head start. head start isn't effective. he talks about -- he cites
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several studies that show that head start hasn't worked nearly as well as we had hoped. he goes on to quote the studies that show that well-funded early education programs do work. >> sure. >> the house budget committee report says that well-funded early childhood education works. well, hasn't the president proposed well-funded early childhood education? absolutely. how have republicans responded? no. they want nothing to do with that. so are there ways to reform these programs? absolutely. early -- well-funded early childhood education is a place to start. raising the minimum wage is another place to start. but, you know, paul ryan also wants to come back to this argument that if poor people would just get married, they wouldn't be poor. if you take a poor guy who is making minimum wage and a poor woman who is making minimum wage and they get married and have
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children, they're still poor. we need to help them get better jobs. and republicans don't have any ideas for that. >> well, the budget committee's report also reaches out to minorities and women. it connotes the breakdown of the family as a key with poverty in the black community. it also says single women lead less than 20% of all households but head 34% of all poor households. if republicans really want to help african americans and single women, so far why have they tried to kill the affordable care acts and expansion of medicaid? according to a recent "new york times" analysis in october that 26 states that have rejected the medicaid expansion are home to about half the country's population, but about 68% of poor uninsured blacks and single mothers. i go back to you, david. the best thing in the world for people is health care, especially when it's provided by the government. and here in the case people just above the poverty line, the working poor who may get a paycheck, but it's not enough to live on. >> right. >> they're the ones that ought to be encouraged. my question. a british guy asked me this
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question. how come our country's way or any conservative's way of helping rich people work harder is to give more money, tax breaks. but the way to help poor people to work harder is to kick them in the butt and their programs? why do you reward the wealthy to make more wealth and then encourage, supposedly, poor people to make more money by cutting them from money. explain the logic, please. >> don't ask me to do that because i cannot explain that logic because it's illogical. but there is a whole way of building up a infrastructure around people who are in poverty to make it easier for them to get work and for them to stay in jobs. that's providing health care, providing day care,el r early child education, nutritional programs for kids, and for their parents if they need it. family medical leave, you know, days off, paid vacation, all these sort of things that the poor don't have. transportation vouchers. because a lot of the working poor can't even get to the jobs. a center for budget and policy priorities put out a report saying even if you filled every
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job that was open today, you still have 2/3 of the unemployed without work. creating jobs is a whole another thing, but they don't want to do that either unless it means giving a tax cut to someone wealthy. infrastructure and things like that they're just not into. it really is about finding a way to say this program doesn't work. so if it doesn't work, well, we shouldn't fund it. >> well, we all remember, guys, that paul ryan ran as the running mate to mitch -- rather to mitt romney. and this may well be the paul ryan plan for the 47%. thank you, cynthia tucker and david corn. this is the illumination of the plan. up next, when jimmy fallon asked rahm emanuel to come on "the tonight show," rahm told him to jump in the lake, a very cold one. that's exactly what he did. this is "hardball," the place for politics. ♪
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himself in a full suit and tie. it wasn't just fun and games. the polar plunge does raise money for the special olympics. by the way, this is the 14th year they have done it. but if rahm emanuel is a difficult guest to book, then perhaps toronto mayor tom ford is a little too eager. take a look at what happened on jimmy kimmel. >> our guest tomorrow night will be toronto mayor rob ford that is right. the honorable mayor -- oh, wait a minute. i think -- you're on the show tomorrow night. >> oh, sorry, jimmy. >> it's okay. it's cool. but i'll see you tomorrow, all right? next up, "american hustle" may have just missed the oscars last night, but the movie has made its way into a political ad in south dakota. former republican senator larry presser is making an independent bid to get his old senate seat back. and the national journal notes that his latest tv ad references
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the tv an its real life inspiration, abscam. pressler was one of many politicians targeted in an fbi sting operation that led to the conviction of six congressmen and one u.s. senator. but when pressler was offered bribes by the undercover agents, he turned down money. here is the ad he ran during last night's academy awards. >> "american hustle" shows the fbi making real-life bribes to washington politicians. i know because as your u.s. senator, i turned them down. >> $50,000 is no problem. >> in any event, it would not be proper for me to promise to do anything in return for a campaign contributions. >> this is the type of honest leadership i will bring to washington, d.c. >> wow. while many say pressler is unlikely to win, it's certainly a smart way to capitalize on the oscar buzz. and we'll have a look at the inspiration behind "american hustle." white men have deserted the party and voted republican. now democrats are trying to
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reverse that trend and bring back the white male. you're watching "hardball," the place for politics. [ male announcer ] how can power consumption in china, impact wool exports from new zealand, textile production in spain, and the use of medical technology in the u.s.? at t. rowe price, we understand the connections of a complex, global economy. it's just one reason over 75% of our mutual funds beat their 10-year lipper average. t. rowe price. invest with confidence. request a prospectus or summary prospectus with investment information, risks, fees and expenses to read and consider carefully before investing.
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i'm milissa rehberger. here is what is happening. a senior administration official tells nbc news that president obama met with members of the national security council a short while ago. the meeting focused on russia's intervention in ukraine. meanwhile, president obama and israeli prime minister benjamin netanyahu met earlier at the white house. they spoke about a range of issues, including mid east peace and iran's nuclear program. and another winter storm made travel difficult along parts of the east coast. more than 2700 flights have been canceled. back to "hardball."
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welcome back to "hardball." at a time when democrats are receiving growing support among minorities, among gay people, among female voter, democrats are debating just how hard the party should work to court white working class men, a group whose loyalty has been eroding for generations. jeff guerin told "the new york times," quote, winning votes from working class white men has been a very tough challenge for the democrats. the challenge is clear, of course. president obama received 35% of the white male vote in 2012 compared to mitt romney's 62%. in fact, the last democratic president to win a majority of the white male vote was lyndon johnson back in the easy win of 1964. well, democrats will need to decide how much time and money they would dedicate or should dedicate to white men in an offyear election. jonathan capehart is an msnbc contributor and opinion writer for "the washington post." and frank houston is oakland county democratic chair out in michigan. frank, you're a pro. i want to talk to you.
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i keep talking about the eight-mile line there. and i think about mccomb county. it's classic in terms of white-black relations and regular congratulation, the whole thing. what can the democrats do to reach a white male working guy? >> well, i think, i didn't see, and first of all thanks for having me. i think it's important that white guys like us want the same things of any person of color or women want too. we want to know that when a politician makes a promise, a promise made is a promise kept. we want to make sure that, for instance, i'm a father and that my children have the opportunity not just to survive, but thrive in today's world. and we want to make sure that also i think that when democrats are talking to white men, that we really are creating a culture in this country where hard work is rewarded with fair pay. and i think as long as democrats remember those core issues, and democrats like gary peter here is in michigan who are running for the u.s. senate i think understand that. but as long as we focus on those
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core issues, we'll be just fine. >> you're going to have a tough race in michigan this year. it's going to be really tight. >> yeah. >> jonathan, it seems to me that this has been going on a long time. the last guy i can think of in politics besides obama in his first run, president obama, was bobby kennedy. he was able to unite the two. i know people argue about this. but i saw it in his funeral train. all those white faces and black faces saluting him as he drove by. the train went by in '68. you can be a white guy making a modest income and black fellow and see yourselves in the same condition and no more fighting. at least it seemed that way. he was one guy that could do that. >> look, what is happening here is you have the president who what been saying time and time again, not making a racial argument in terms of, you know, his view of where the country should be and economically, but where all americans should be. if you work hard and play by the rules, then you should be able to have access to opportunity,
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not guaranteed outcomes, but guaranteed access to opportunity. and i have to agree with frank. as long as the democrats maintain their message being one of economics, i think the more that it will break through. look, we've just gone through -- we're now going through president obama's second term dealing with an intractable republican opposition that says no to everything, but has an alternative to nothing. and so as long as the democrats can push forward, say the american jobs act, or pushing things that try to get the economy moving forward, getting people trained for jobs for the 21st century rather than the 20th century, as long as they keep pushing those plans and ideas and the republicans have nothing to offer in the alternative, the better the democrats look. >> let me go back to frank. you've got a challenge on your hands. it seems to me that a lot of this has to do with segregated housing, growing up in a big city where race becomes a big issue over turf and neighborhood
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changes. that makes people angry. you know how it works. it isn't complicated. this sort of fight over your gain is my loss. a sense of zero sum gain, that if there is black opportunity, there is a white loss, a loss of face or whatever. this is a big challenge. and i look at -- if these numbers are true, 35% of the white male voter voted for obama, imagine what it's like outside the liberal enclaves. you take cambridge or new york or philly suburbs or nice moderate thinking people. you go into the rural areas, it must be about four to one the white males voting against obama. your thoughts about that, frank. >> you know, chris, actually in michigan that's not always necessarily the case. i think president obama has been another one of those candidates that has been able to transcend race and gender a little bit. >> he certainly tries. >> but here in michigan -- tried -- but here in michigan, i think the experience has been that a generation ago, we saw the republican party i think very effectively try to drive the politics, the division and
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create wedges between people based on race and class and gender. but today's democrats i think are having an advantage now where white men, we've evolved. at least in michigan we have, where now it is more about economics. it is more about opportunity. it is more about the education that ourselves and our children will get. so i think now is a time where it's less about pitting one group against another like republicans always try to do, and it's more about candidates, being able to offer shared vision for how to move our economy and our state forward here at least in michigan. >> jonathan, i've gotten to know you pretty well. so i'm asking you a straight question. why did 62% of white men in america vote for romney, who is not exactly charismatic, okay, not exactly sure of his own ideological footing, to put it lightly. said things he probably didn't believe. and yet white men voted for this guy, who is not exactly a regular guy that you want to have a beer with.
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they always say i want to vote for a guy i want to have a beer with. >> there is a couple of things going on here. the tradition of democrats losing the white male vote. i think you said it at the top of the segment that no democrat running for president and winning the white house has actually won the white vote. you to go all the way back to president johnson in 1964. the other thing that i think is at play here might have to do with race. in 2012, the president was running for reelection and coming off of two years of intense nastiness from the far right of the political spectrum you. had the tea party. you had the fringe elements glomming off to the tea party, radical conservatives unfurling confederate flags in front of the white house, tea party rallies depicting the president in all sorts of sort of racially tinged manner. and so, you know, you had perhaps a lot of people out there voting against the
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president because they didn't like his policies, but also because they didn't like him viscerally. >> i have to agree with you on that. by the way, not to take a thought away from your emotions and truth to everything you just said, i think if the democrats could find another john f. kennedy or robert f. kennedy, that might solve this problem. but that's not going to happen for a while. frank, thank you so much. good luck on your campaigns throughout. great to have you on. please keep us up to date about michigan. you're going to have one tight senate race out there. the political scandal at the heart of the great "american hustle," the real scandal behind it, abscam. what a sleazy operation that was. in a moment we'll show you the people behind it who took the money. this is "hardball," the place for politics.
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for darrell issa, reality doesn't seem to matter. issa, the chairman of the committee on house oversight made news yesterday on fox television when he said this is about lowest learner, the irs administrator in cincinnati who led the unit that reviewed requests for tax exemptions. remember all that? here he is. >> her attorney indicates now that she will testify. we've been in back and forth negotiation. but quite frankly, we believe that the evidence we've gathered causes her and her best interests to be someone who should testify. >> the problem is that is not true. learner's tern said she is not testifying and would continue to assert her fifth amendment rights. he also said he had no idea why issa said what he said, which is a reasonable comment on anything he ever says. we'll be right back.
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who is running this? i thought you were running this. >> i am running this. but you got to listen. he is the guy with the vision. >> i got the vision? you know what vision i have? i just have the vision of you kissing my girl outside. >> i thought you guys broke up. >> that was a scene from the great movie "american hustle," which was passed over at last night's academy awards for ten tom nations. anyway, it's a great movie and one that is more true to life than you can believe. if you've seen it, you might have noticed a curious disclaimer at the start of the film. it says "some of this actually happened." that's because it did. it was called abscam, and it played out on national television in the early '80s.
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>> there is a new word in the american political vocabulary this morning. the word is abscam. it's an fbi code name for arab scam, a cover for the biggest a. >> "american hustle" is a somewhat fictionalized story behind that real-life fbi sting operation which eventually led to the conviction of six u.s. congressmen, a u.s. senator, the mayor of dam den, new jersey, and three members of the philadelphia city council. the lead character played by christian bale is based on conman turned fbi informant melvin weinberg who had the scheme for politicians accepting money from an fbi agent posing as an arab sheikh. many of them took the bait. the transactions were all caught on hidden cameras. nbc's chuck todd got up with melvin weinberg who's 89 years old to discuss the facts behind
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the fiction of "american hustle." chuck joins us now. chuck, you're laughing because this is so rich. >> it is so rich. >> you have the money out like they do for a mousetrap. they put the cheese out and the mouse goes for it. you want $50,000, which is almost their salary, their annual salary, they said yes. >> right. well, and we need to go back into time. what motivated -- and this is still -- the most controversial part of ab scam is there was no hint of criminal activity by some of these members of congress. now, the mayor of camden, they clearly wanted to get him on something. the feds believed that the mayor at the time was up to no good, so setting a trap for him made sense. but then they just kept it going. and this is where it got controversial. now, you think back to '78, 4 years after watergate, distrust of politicians and institutions, basically as i then as it is today. that same feeling that you see going on there. it was pretty palpable then so
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certainly nobody was taking the sides of members of congress. but you go back and you look at this, chris, and you sit there and say it was entrapment. there is nothing -- not one of these members of congress was actively thinking that they were going to put together this scheme and try to make money out of it. this was something that was created out of whole cloth by mel weinberg and the fbi to entrap politicians at the time. >> chuck, chuck, this is one time in our long history together i'm 180 from you of the i don't want a politician representing me in congress who's a mouse that goes for the cheese. >> look, i'm saying they made idiots of themselves. >> not idiots, they took the money. >> but they were entrapped. let's remember, they were entrapped. >> so is the guy on the street corner sell drugs when the cop comes by. who is the guy who thinks it's a hooker and it's not a hooker. you tell me that these guys normally wouldn't take the money, is that what you're saying? >> well, obviously that's not
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the case because as -- you know, there's larry pressler, for instance, is out today. he was one of the few guys who famously turned down the money on tape and he's seen as doing that. he put up an ad but it's funny in talking to the players at the time, they do mention that while some never took the money, no member of congress truly went to the fbi and blew the whistle on this. >> let me tell you how it worked. they asked people -- let me go. let's show your interview with weinberg, the genius behind this whole thing that took place five years after nixon resigned. it seems like the lessons of watergate fell on deaf ears. >> every one of them knew it was illegal. if they are meeting with anyone offering them a bribe, they should go right to the fbi and say these men offered me a bribe. >> not a single one -- >> not one went to the fbi. >> in philly where i was watching this all happen in realtime, i benefit from the fact that i know these
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personalities, most of them. and here's what they said. they said should be go to billy green. billy green was clean. they said don't mess with him, he's a boy scout. well, they didn't see that about the other guys. they said go see ozzie meyers, go see the mayor, they knew who to pass the money around to. >> and they did -- look, they seemed to be careful at who they picked. they picked members who they thought would be susceptible. >> yeah. >> to this for some reason or the other. >> that's entrapment if you think the guy does this for a living. >> maybe but if you didn't have evidence -- i can tell you this, i spoke to the u.s. attorney at the time who felt concerned on a couple of things. number one he felt that weinberg was coaching the members of congress. this was a hoot. he said weinberg and he said they caught him on tape doing this, would tell the members as he was bringing in the members of congress, he would be coaching them on how to -- what was going to happen in there. hey, he's looking for some help. i just want you to be prepared and he's going to go into places that you may not -- almost
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trying to coach the congressmen to say something incriminating on the videotape. the u.s. attorney was so concerned about this coaching issue that he actually complained to the justice department and then the justice department decided to try to intervene with the fbi and got a young eric holder, by the way at the time, who was in the office of public integrity, he was there to try to get him to back off of this. but you cannot look at this and say that the fbi and the justice department acted totally clean here. obviously the members of congress were dirty because they were willing to accept it. >> i just know every time you get on the phone there's a recording that says this conversation is being monitored for quality control. i want our congress monitored for quality control. >> that's what we learned. >> we'll be right back after this. [ girl ] my mom, she makes underwater fans that are powered by the moon. ♪ she can print amazing things, right from her computer. [ whirring ]
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let me finish tonight with this. i want to issue a deep concern i have about the situation in ukraine. somewhere along the line we've gotten the idea it's a big american question, a big american issue, a big place for us to not just get involved, not just cheer for one side but to lead the way. the american people are not involved. the united states is not involved, certainly not as a key player. the two countries involved here are russia and ukraine. both sides need to solve this problem, not the united states. the hawks in this country see every situation in the world as a test of our toughness. how about seeing every situation as a test of our good sense. i've seen too many times when the first impulse is the bad one. if the republicans care so much
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about democracy, how about ending their crusade of voter suppression of minorities in this country. how about bringing to the minorities in this country the same concern they have for democratic government in iraq or libya or syria or ukraine. that's "hardball" for now. "all in with chris hayes" starts right now. good evening from new york, i'm credit hayes. tonight all eyes are on the situation in ukraine. a senior obama administration official tells nbc news that president obama has been meeting with his national security council discussing potential options with ukraine. tensions remain extremely high as russia steps up its occupation of crimea, a semi autonomous region located on the black sea in the southern section of the country. russian president vladimir putin shows no sign of backing down, despite mounting pressure from the u.s., nato and the